David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Wed 25 Jun 08 09:15
Indeed, as Ed says, we're turning our Inkwell spotlight to our next conversation, but there's definitely no reason to stop. You guys are welcome to continue teaching me more about Willie's involvement in the music scene than I ever imagined possible, as long as you want. Thanks to Joe Nick and Ed for a terrific conversation!
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Wed 25 Jun 08 10:21
Yes indeed. It's lovely getting my memory jogged and the blanks filled in.
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Wed 25 Jun 08 11:08
Poodie's Hilltop is more of a beer joint than a cafe, although he makes some excellent hubcap-size burgers with New Mexican green chiles that he imports and freezes. And while his name and logo - a silhouette profile that features his prominent beer gut and ponytail - is also pasted to a line of barbecue sauces, he's more a bar owner than a chef, even though he did learn to cook from his mama, Gloria aka Mama Locke, who ran a boarding house in Waco that Billy Joe Shaver spoke highly of. Poodie is something of a food aficionado as his gut attests. He's quoted in the book critiquing the chef named the Beast, who cooked for Willie in the late 70s, early 80s salad days. Poodie said the Beast had to go because he cooked too much Italian fare, meaning everything was baked, which left Poodie, among others, constipated. "Everyone knows you have to have grease in your food to make a turd," he told me. But of course. Poodie also knows of Cupp's, a white clapboard drive-in in Waco that Danny Young turned me on to. They grill thin patty burgers like Dirty's in Austin used to do, using the same griddle since 1938. Evidently, the band and crew buses still stop in when they're passing through, bypassing a Rudy's, the Health Camp, the Turkey Shop in Abbott (not all that anymore) and the Czech Stop in West. Listen, I've enjoyed it too. Y'all have asked some engaging questions that made me think, I now know where the nexus of the creative arch is in the book, and I love hearing and telling stories, as you might have noticed. It's been extra special to me to be able to engage Ed in memory jogging. We both have known Austin as a very different place than it is today. Enough water's passed under the Congress Avenue Bridge to look back and reassess what happened 30-40 years ago and how it informs the hear and now. Doing this kind of history is a real turn-on because it's fresh enough for a few witnesses to be lingering around who really know what happened and eager to tell their stories to anyone who finds them and knows what to ask. rik, the memory jogging is perhaps the sweetest part, because a lot of folks who've read the book say it's really jogged their memories. An elementary school boyfriend of my sister who is a real estate magnate wrote me about how the book brought back memories of hearing Ike and Tina and Jimmy Reed at the Skyliner in Fort Worth when he was 16 (back then you could legally drive if you were 14) and then how he first sold real estate lots at Briarcliff when he was in college - which is Willie's ranch and headquarters now. And it's not just Willie either. It's getting to write about all the characters around him. Others may judge some of them to be shady types or even underworld figures. I see them more as some of the last real Texans left, bullshitting, loud, wild-eyed, sometimes obnoxious, most always crazy, wholly lovable, honest one of a kind people you can't forget. I leave you with the latest news of the main subject who, as always, is still moving. The Wynton Marsalis-Willie Nelson collaboration will be released right after a week's worth of Fourth of July Picnic mania across Texas including Carl's Corner, Lubbock, San Antonio, and Houston. Then it's on to the next, which is more roadwork this summer, some church singing, and an album of Western Swing in collaboration with Ray Benson. Adios, til the next question.
Ed Ward (captward) Wed 25 Jun 08 11:43
Oh, man, the Willie/Ray I gotta hear! And I hope there's enough of Blue Note left after this morning's firings to at least ship a couple of the Wyntie 'n' Willie disc, although I, for one, am taking a pass. And yeah, memory jogging. I was trying to compose something to complement the "shady characters" post when I remembered a couple of them shooting a dog which had wandered backstage at the College Station Picnic, kind of a low point in a series of low points, and then remembered that that's where a bunch of Texas A&M students took an old station wagon loaded with great barbeque and drove through the fence because they'd heard that we were starving in there -- as we were, backstage, and we didn't dare leave there because the same characters would decide our passes were no good and we'd be marooned in a huge crowd with no shade -- and fed the whole backstage menagerie. It's also where the Mother Earth band let me crash on their floor after the Willie characters' promise of a motel room evaporated, and I got a ride back to Austin with Joe Gracey, the most enthusiastic promoter of "progressive country" ever. He talked and talked on the way back, filling me in on things, and that was the beginning of a very valuable friendship, although we've lost touch. Joe Nick, were you at that Picnic? Or did you have the sense to be somewhere else? That was a real eye-opener for me: backstage I met all sorts of people who helped me with articles and so on later: Jerry Retzloff, the Lone Star Beer rep, whom you quote extensively -- and why not, because he was such a fan; the people who published Pick Up The Tempo, a sort of spiritual predecessor to No Depression; Doug Sahm, whom I knew already from California, but who was deeply into his Austin-as-Groovers'-Paradise mode. Uh, that didn't turn out to be a question, did it...
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Wed 25 Jun 08 12:09
I was at the College Station picnic, the 2d Picnic after Dripping Springs, which I missed. It was crazy all around. Tim O'Connor was nominally one of the promoters and his version sort of explained why. He hired bouncers from Austin clubs to do security, which they didn't do well mainly because they were hot and very loaded (one of them was likely the dog killer), and Tim's partner was the county judge, who basically ran Tim off and told him never to set foot in the county again. I remember trying to find shade in the crowd and ended up laying down under a car it was so hot until I hustled my way backstage, into an RV with air-conditioning, and found myself sitting across a table from Floyd Tillman, whom I proceeded to interview for the next couple hours, mainly to stay cool. Turned out he was a bigger legend than I fathomed at the time. I do remember Leon Russell still being a bigger draw than Willie and just about everyone else on the picnic bill this side of Waylon, and all I saw Leon do was drink Lone Star, expose his beer belly, and take a piss off the side of the stage. The ugly side showed itself then. The next picnic at Liberty Hill the next year was much better I thought (that's when I met you and witnessed you signing for that bottle of Jack Daniels that room service brought to you at the Hilton and you said Neil Reshen was paying for it; I was sold on the rock crit lifestyle then and there) and then Gonzales in 76 was just plain nasty, ending the first string of picnics. Joe Gracey was perhaps the greatest promoter of Progressive Country ever, because he was the best bullshitter of all the disc jockeys and station personnel at KOKE FM. 'Course, as Bob Cole reminded me this morning on KVET, I'd written that KOKE was great radio, but had lousy ratings. At least Austin's grown enough so that those commercial stations like KVET and KGSR who promote local and regional music actually have significant audiences. Only a few hipsters listened to KOKE, but man, what radio: Kris Kristofferson and Willie picking live in the control room, just because they felt like it, Gracey, Speedy Perez, Rusty Bell, Marty Manning, Steve Jackson, Larry Dinger, Nick Spitzer who now hosts American Routes on public radio. I subbed for Gracey when he quit before the ship went down and lemme tell, it was some kind of cheap thrill to play Guitar Slim's "Things I Used To Do," and have Sir Doug call in, saying I was playing some cool music.
surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Wed 25 Jun 08 12:30
Thanks for being so involved in the discussion, Joe Nick. I really appreciate you taking the time. Likewise to Ed Ward. It was a special treat to be able to hear what you all had to say.
Ed Ward (captward) Wed 25 Jun 08 12:32
Don't forget to tip your waitress.
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Wed 25 Jun 08 12:42
But when you're done, stand her back up.
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Wed 25 Jun 08 13:52
Gracey's signature sign off when he was on Super Roper Radio: "Stay off your feet, drinking plenty of water, and come when you can."
surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Thu 26 Jun 08 17:18
One thing I'm curious about is how much money Willie makes from his non-musical ventures (Whiskey River liquor, licensed merchandise, BioWillie, etc) versus from his music.
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Fri 27 Jun 08 06:50
I'm not privy to the financials, but will say that merchandise is a huge part of any entertainment act's income and Scooter Franks, Willie's merchandiser, sets up a veritable Willie at his gigs on the road. I don't think Old Whiskey River or BioWillie bring in that much income. They're more like easy vanity projects compared to the multimillion dollar endorsement deals Willie once did with Wrangler jeans and the Gap. But overall, concert tickets and the accompanying merchandise sales generate more income than album sales, record deals, or endorsements do. Willie loves the road, but he also loves the income it bring in, despite the skyrocketing costs of staying on the road. Music still brings home the bacon, but it just isn't in the traditional forms of record sales.
surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Fri 27 Jun 08 13:39
I was thinking that Willie might be especially valuable as a "brand," if you'll forgive the term, because of his longevity and inamge of integrity.
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Sat 28 Jun 08 04:59
Willie is a brand. Anyone recognizable by their first name only certainly qualifies. He's got brand all right, which is why he's the guy associated with Farm Aid, why Snoop Dogg sought him out for his new video (check it out on You Tube), and why H and R Block sought him out for their Super Bowl ad a few years back. I dig that each of the above associated him with a different image - friend of the family farmer, hemp advocate, tax survivor - none of which have much to do with music.
david gault (dgault) Sun 29 Jun 08 10:48
Thanks again, Joe Nick. I'll look forward to reading your book on Stevie Ray, which I noticed mentioned on the back of the Willie volume, half an hour after I suggested a Chesley Millikan book. D'oh! As for Austin, Southwest is running a $79 one way special from Oakland so I think I'll be back down for Sunday at the Saxon real soon. Willie's daughter is pretty cute and she's there all the time.
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Sun 29 Jun 08 11:55
There's a whole lot of Chesley in the SRV book. Thanks for suggesting him as a subject. The more I think, the better it sounds. I did a signing last Weds at the Saxon Pub before Paula went on. Every time I hear her, she gets better and better. Her band kept it light and bluesy the other night, letting her voice carry the show. Last night I spoke to a fundraiser for the Austin Public Library and testified about how critical libraries were to my research, ie. you still can't find everything online; sometimes looking through the stacks is the only way to get answers. I also did my riff about how Willie is the most important Texan of the 20th and 21st centuries. I got a laugh when I mentioned how LBJ didn't quite make the cut and did give props to Jack Kilby and the transistor at Texas Instruments but opined he didn't reek of Texan-ness like Willie does. When I was signing books afterwards, I was introduced to Jack Kilby's granddaughter, who thanked me for mentioning her granddad. I started to crawdad, apologizing, then signed in her book, "Here's to your granddad, the other Texan's Texan besides Willie." Take advantage of that $79 fare to Austin while you can. Those prices will soon be a thing of the distant past. I flew SWA a couple weeks back to LA and found it to be friendly and efficient as ever, although the security line outside their terminal at LAX was one of the longest I've ever been in.
From Casey Monahan! (captward) Mon 30 Jun 08 06:50
Question was asked Joe Nick about how working as a manager informs his writing. Some musicians on the receiving end of a critical review will write fevered Letters to the Editor saying, "how could you write that -- you can't even play music!" So it's always interesting when writers such as Joe put down their pen to make a lateral move to management. The music biz is one of the most backward and insular industries out there. Learning how decisions are actually made is information usually withheld from journalists. It's a trial-and-error world getting started in music business (though thankfully there are a few good books now to help managers and others learn the easy way through reading first and then acting second). Sleuthing through the many business decisions Willie made requires a fundamental understanding of how artists make money in music. Who better to hire than someone who has both a good BS meter (such as an experienced journalist like Joe) and practical experience breaking (in the honorific sense) and sustaining an artist's career (like Joe has). There's usually a stunned reaction on the face of a non-music biz person when I tell them How The Music Biz Really Works, a look that says, "You're kidding me, right?" I mean, Steve Jobs is one of the three most powerful people in the biz these days, and he doesn't even really work in it. How is it that an industry can delegate its digital policy to a third-party? Figure that out and you'll understand why so many non-DIY artists are so frustrated with the higher-ups.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Mon 30 Jun 08 07:28
The record companies not only haven't stepped up to the plate -- I don't think they've even found the ballpark yet. As a frustrated customer of the music industry, I'm not sure I even want to know how it works, but it seems to me that they never went through the maturation process that eventually came to the movie industry when TV came along.
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Mon 30 Jun 08 07:45
Managing music people certainly helped me write about music people from a more informed perspective. The existing business of music as all have noted is a mess, and in a sense deserves to whither on the vine, replaced by a new model of distribution like I Tunes has done. The industry reacted to I Tunes and I Pods by fighting online methods of accessing music, rather than embracing the technology. By doing so, they started shoveling their own graves because they turned consumers against them. Again, it's not just the music business. All media are having to adjust, including radio, TV, moves, newspapers, magazines, and yes, book publishers. It'll be interesting to see what transpires. But from where I sit, the Barnes & Nobles and Borders of today sure look a lot like Tower Records did ten years ago. Those who are nimblest will survive the paradigm shift and profit from it. Those resisting change the most are condemned to fail. Then again, what do I know? I'm just a content provider waiting to be rewarded for providing content.
surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Tue 1 Jul 08 12:08
>Then again, what do I know? I'm just a content provider waiting to be > rewarded for providing content. We're a large, if unpaid crowd. How do folks here feel about Willie's recenbt shows? I've heard a lot of comments that he seems apathetic and sloppy in recent years. I've been reluctant to shell out for a ticket as a result.
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Tue 1 Jul 08 20:20
The record business, as we've known it for the past sixty years or so, is pretty much gone. They got fat, lived large, and before they knew it, it all went away because kids were downloading and accessing music the quickest, most efficient way they know, which does not include a trip to the record store. Willie's shows are not stellar exhibitions of precision. They rarely ever were. Of the five shows I took in at the Fillmore last year, the first two were inspiring and it wasn't just me, as Willie pushed beyond his normal-for-these-day one and a half show. You could tell he was having a good time. Two felt like they were phoned in, but maybe it was seeing two really good shows first, and the fifth, well, I missed most of it, gathering my baggage so I could travel on the bus after the show, which I did. Since then, I've seen three shows and all's I can say, there's no consistency, which is not a bad thing. If you want consistency go see a band that plays the same show night after night. Willie plays off the audience and likes to do audibles, even if it's roughly the same band. I'd pay to see the Last of the Breed Tour again with Haggard and Price. That was a powerful lineup and they played well off each other. I saw Chuck Berry when he was Willie's age and it was a total ripoff. For his age and all things considered, he holds up pretty well onstage. It won't be like that forever, so I suggest even if you're mildly curious, it's worth paying to see him and his band at this stage of the game.
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Wed 2 Jul 08 10:02
joe--is UTPress going to republish your Selena bio? I was going to try to track down a copy of the book, but didn't know if i should wait for a new edition or just track down whatever one was available now.
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Wed 2 Jul 08 11:06
UT Press looked at the book when I retrieved rights from Little, Brown two years ago, and they've talked about doing an updated version as well as a Spanish language version which Little, Brown opted not to do. But it's been two years since it was last discussed, so I may have to go hunting to a new publisher. I'd be glad to do an update because so many characters around Selena have moved on to have interesting lives, some in music, some outside music. The book was a disappointment for Little, Brown and less than four months after it came out, I saw copies dumped in stores at deeply discounted prices. I bought a few but should've bought more. Little, Brown didn't understand Selena or her audience, and I feel it was never marketed well. But as an author, the book brought me deep street cred among Latino music fans especially Tejanos. I just taped some interviews for a five hour Latin Music in America doc that PBS is putting together because of the Selena book. Unfortunately, despite the ambitiously grand sweep of the series, Texas and California Latinos will have to share an hour. I suggest looking on Amazon or Abebooks for a hard bound copy of Selena. rather than the abridged paperback edition. It's going to be at least a couple years before a new version surfaces. Publishers? Come on down!
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Wed 2 Jul 08 11:31
thanks for the info and tip regarding the hard-bound copy!
Ed Ward (captward) Wed 2 Jul 08 13:56
Which brings up the question of when the Willie book might be out in paper. Then you'll *really* see a royalty check! (Well, in a couple years...)
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Wed 2 Jul 08 15:59
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